For years, the United States and a few other nations have attempted to persuade Communist North Korea to end its menacing development of nuclear weapons. We have offered a variety of aid in exchange for numerous promises from North Korea.
Invariably, those promises have been empty. The aid has been provided, but Communist North Korea has continued building nukes.
So we cannot blame U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for his recent expression of doubt about the latest talks between the United States and North Korea.
As an illustration of just how meaningless those talks are, they are not actually discussions about North Korea ending its nuclear weapons production. Rather, they are only talks about setting the terms for future talks on nuclear weapons. And in fact, participants in these preliminary talks did not even manage to set a date for any "real" talks to begin.
Panetta was justified, therefore, when he cast doubt on whether anything productive is likely to happen.
"I guess the word skepticism would be in order at this time as to what may or may not happen in those discussions," he recently told reporters in South Korea.
Communist North Korea, whose inefficient economic system has led in recent years to outright starvation among many of its oppressed people, is eager to obtain food aid and additional assistance from other countries. So it may again start making promises about ceasing and desisting from its nuke program in exchange for aid.
But it would be extremely unwise for the United States or any other country to assume that North Korea is serious this time around and to provide aid based on more empty assurances.
There is no clear solution to the threat that the belligerent nation poses, but repeating our own country's previous mistakes in dealing with North Korea definitely won't work.